• Published 2nd Feb 2013
  • 6,607 Views, 148 Comments

Justice - TwilightSnarkle

Worker has found happiness, health, and most importantly, home. Now he struggles to defend those who made his new life possible while he wrestles with his own demons.

  • ...

Old Flames

Pasofino had once been a tiny hamlet, ignored by the rest of Equestria, but now it boomed, crowded with new construction and new faces. Prosperity reigned over the once-quiet village. Despite springtime rains and muddy streets, visitors from far and wide availed themselves of the services and goods of the bustling shops on the way to their destination: a toy shop.

Worker’s Toys had moved several times in the past five years. First run from his home, and then from a tent in the pavilion, it now had its own storefront. It was located at the end of a new thoroughfare, and the large yet homey shop was surrounded by a motley assortment of the village’s more prosperous businesses and restaurants.

The shop was busy at all hours. Ponies traveled great distances to buy what could only be found on its shelves. The town’s fillies and colts crowded the sales floor as they tested the merchandise while familiar and foreign faces lined up at the till. Business was brisk, and Worker’s days were made brighter simply by bringing such joy to his fellow ponies.

That Friday afternoon, however, he closed early. He loaded up a wagon behind the store with all manner of toys, games, and surprises, from wind-up butterflies and frogs to simple ring-puzzles. This would be his first shipment to Canterlot, discounting the occasional visitor who made a special request, and his first step into larger distribution. It promised to bring in a great deal of money, as well as a little recognition. While the money wasn’t needed, Worker admitted the recognition was pleasant indeed.

Skyshine smiled at him from her position beneath one of the wagon’s yokes. He nodded back, then stood next to her, slipping the harness over his shoulders. Together, they began the journey towards the famed city.

“Goodbye, Mr. Worker!” called a young unicorn filly, dangling from a nearby tree. “Have a fun trip!”

He slowed his gait, and nodded back. “We will, Sparks. Take care you don’t fall. If you drop head-first, you might damage the roots.”

“I won’t, Mr—HEY!”

Chuckling to himself, Worker picked up his pace once more, and the wagon rumbled down the path. Skyshine rolled her eyes in amusement.

“You really should be nicer to the foals, dearest.”

He looked affronted a moment before his smile won out. “I was nice! She knows I care for her.”

“Mmm.” She smiled back, and glanced over her shoulder at the giggling filly, who had been joined by a few friends. “I suppose that’s true. Didn’t you leave a surprise for her birthday, tomorrow?”

“I did indeed.” He nodded to himself, keeping his eyes on the horizon. “That little filly’s got the best night-light ever.”

“I thought it was a music box.”

“Does that too,” he noted, satisfied.

“I’m not going to win this conversation, am I?”

“Oh, are we competing?” He was careful not to meet her eye. “You know I would never dare, Skyshine, because you always win.”

She leaned over and nuzzled him as they walked. “Charmer.”

He gave her a sidelong look, and smiled faintly. “I’m inspired by beauty.”

Obviously pleased, with color rising in her ears, she looked towards the road ahead. “Shush, you. We have days left to go.”

His eyes twinkled merrily in the late-afternoon sunlight. “I look forward to it.”

The nights were clear and warm, and the days sunny. If Worker didn’t know better, he’d suspect Sundown had a hoof in that. The two ponies made good time, often walking well past moonrise and starting their mornings before the sun peeked over the horizon. In the darkness, they would sit around a small fire, regaling one another with childhood fantasies of derring-do and romance.

“Skyshine?” Worker checked on the embers of their fire, and pulled their blanket closer. “Are you ready?”

“I’ll be right there,” she replied from the treeline on the other side of the road. “Set things up for us, won’t you?”

As had become habit, Worker checked the goods, took out a bottle of cider, and lay on the thick blanket beside the dying fire. Skyshine joined him there, leaning against him with a sigh of contentment, and the two of them watched the stars.

Worker shared the myths of the constellations, pointing out their places in the Equestrian sky. Orion, Scorpio, Cassiopeia, and the Ursas Major and Minor were all known here, but with different legends attached. Skyshine, in turn, told him the tales of some constellations unique to Equestria, pointing out the Progenitor, the Two Sisters, the arm of the Mist Sea, and many others. Tonight’s story was her favorite.

“It is said that many years ago,” she proclaimed, her voice gaining the tones of a skilled vaudevillian, “the four stars of the Vanguard rested at opposite corners of the sky, drawing nearer to one another as the centuries passed. They served Nightmare, and sought to return it to power over all of Equestria. Their dark plot might have succeeded were it not for the Elements of Harmony, a band of heroes who lived in an enormous enchanted tree surrounded by a dangerous forest.”

He’d heard the story a hundred times before on a hundred different nights, but each retelling was just as magical as the first. He knew it was the company that made it so. Half-listening, he rested his muzzle on her neck, and her words became a quiet lullaby that he felt more than heard. A few moments later, her tuneless song became a muffled sigh, and then a steady susurrus as she fell asleep. He smiled as he snuggled closer, and soon joined her in dreams.

It was shortly after noon on their fourth day when they approached the gates to Canterlot. Its sweeping arches and slender spires gleamed in the warm spring sun, creating a vista unlike any other in Equestria. Skyshine looked over the yoke at her partner, and smiled to herself as he stared in wonder.

She had visited the city often as a filly, when her father had business with the bankers. It was still a beautiful, impressive sight to her. She could only imagine what Worker thought of it.

“It’s...” he began, then paused, gazing at her. “It’s the second most beautiful thing I’ve seen on this journey.”

Her ears turned bright-red and flicked with embarrassment, then she gave him a wry look and pulled the cart forward. He stumbled, struggling a moment to regain his hooves, but his smile never wavered. Together, they entered the city and began the next step of their journey.

Stopping at a nearby hotel, she struggled out of her yoke while Worker levitated a bag of coins from the wagon. “I’ll try the stores in the foreign quarter first, dearest,” he began, “and then the estates, if I have time before sundown. Please get us a room and a place to store the wagon overnight.”

Skyshine smiled, “Of course! Good luck on your pitch. If I get settled in quickly enough, I’ll join you.”

He trudged away with a nod, pulling the laden wagon behind him.

Skyshine strode into the hotel and waited behind a satin cord. To say the hotel was busy would be an understatement. It seemed as if every other traveler chose this location for their stay. Eventually, she made arrangements for a ground-floor room and a berth for their wagon, then winced at the price. It was significantly more than they had budgeted.

She tsked to herself as she counted the paltry change back into her purse. If their sales did not go well, she calculated, they’d have to leave before the week was up. Troubled, Skyshine located their room, entered, and stuffed the coinpurse into the room’s safe. She paused to check her mane in the mirror, then left to rejoin Worker. The walk, she hoped, would help lift her spirits.

As she strolled through Canterlot, her thoughts flew in all directions, eventually converging on her past. If Worker hadn’t always been a pony, he certainly was one now. Ever since his arrival five winters ago, he had made strides in his understanding of pony culture, but that was the lesser of two miracles. The greater was his physical change, seemingly overnight, into the form of the shaggy, disheveled unicorn she sought now.

He wasn’t hard to find. A crowd had formed outside Tinker’s Toys, a large storefront bedecked in all manner of hoofcrafted playthings. They clamored to peer through the windows as Worker made his sales pitch. Skyshine stepped closer to the wagon, keeping one eye on the goods strapped within and the other on her wild-maned companion. He appeared to be finishing up, and by the proprietor’s broad smile and gestures to the crowd outside, she seemed eager to agree.

Worker had a gift for communication. No matter the subject, he could relay what he intended with utmost clarity, so long as the other party was willing to listen. On the many nights they spent under the star-strewn sky, he would regale her with his dreams and ambitions, his thoughts and designs, his plans and his preparations. She drank it all in, and worked hard to keep up, wanting to know more about this strange creature who had become her closest friend.

Not that all his tales were pleasant. He often spoke of a dark past, a troubled time before Equestria became his home, but he would never clarify. She didn’t care. He was here now, and he was a good pony. He spent every waking hour crafting wondrous toys and magnificent machines, serving the town of Pasofino, and when he thought she wouldn’t notice, donating his bits to the town’s coffers.

Over time, the two of them had grown to depend on one another. When he was lost in his work, she would be sure to keep him in good health. When she was buried in yet another task for the mayor, he’d be sure to listen—if he didn’t have a good idea, he would at the very least be attentive and supportive. To the rest of the town, they were inseparable. To one another, they were everything.

As in any small town, ponies talked. And these days, the ponies talked about Skyshine and Worker. Had he proposed? Were they going to settle down? Raise a family? Whenever they asked, Skyshine would smile, and shake her head, and move on with her day. She didn’t know if, where he came from, that was something that occurred, and she was happy with the company she had. Still...

“...shine?” Someone was speaking. “Skyshine.”

Her world snapped back into focus, and she realized she was staring at the palace. Blinking, she found Worker waving a hoof before her eyes. She managed a wan smile. “I’m sorry. I was thinking.”

“I saw that,” he replied worriedly, his brow knotted. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, I’m fine. Really.” She remembered the shrinking purse back at the hotel. “How did the sale go? Are we on track?”

“Marvelously,” he answered, beaming. “She offered to take half our stock straight out, and depending on how they sell, she might be interested in another shipment very soon.”

“Half the stock?” She nickered with joy. “That’s wonderful! At this rate, we won’t have to worry about the budget at all. Uh, just a little concern, though. Doesn’t that change your sales plan?”

“A little, but it also simplifies the work.” He levitated a number of parcels out of the wagon, and carried them inside. She followed close behind, a package on her back. “Listen, I have an idea...”

It was a remarkable plan, ingenious but easy to execute. They could focus their sales through two main outlets in different parts of Canterlot. Each would receive a unique model that the other store would not, providing customers a reason to visit both shops. “I was thinking the butterfly line here,” he explained, “and at our next stop, the turtles.” Those two lines were his biggest sellers.

“It makes sense,” Skyshine replied. “I’ll make sure the turtles stay on the wagon, and look for any extra butterflies.” He nodded in reply, and left in search of the owner. She headed back outside, sorted out the remaining parcels, and secured them tightly. By the time she was done, Worker returned with a bulging purse which he stuffed into a chest built into the wagon.

“Her largest competitor is just under an hour’s walk around the palace.” Worker stretched out his neck with a groan, then approached the harnesses. “Shall we get going?”

“Anywhere with you, dear,” she replied with a smile, slipping into the yoke.

The wagon rolled easily down the pavers as the pair walked towards the other shop. “By the way, Skyshine,” Worker began, “what’s the problem with the budget?”

An hour and a half later, the two ponies, exhausted from their labors, walked towards their hotel. Worker pulled the empty wagon, while Skyshine walked alongside and kept watch for any colts and fillies underhoof in the lengthening shadows.

Rounding a corner, Worker heard one last package slide across the wagon’s planks. Skyshine heard it too. “Worker?” she called. “There’s one left! Did we short one of the stores?”

He shook his head, and called over his shoulder, “No, dearest. That’s a package for somepony else. Special delivery. We’ll take care of it tonight, if you’re up to it.”

“That’s fine,” she replied, “but I want to get in a hoof soak and a meal first.”

“Let’s dress up and hit the town. After our good fortune today, I feel like celebrating.”

They reached the hotel soon thereafter. Worker levitated the package out of the back as he walked the wagon around the elaborately landscaped grounds. “I’ll see you inside, Skyshine.”

She nodded and strolled into the hotel, pausing to smell a few blossoms not found in Pasofino. When he could no longer see her, Worker let out a quiet breath he had not known he was holding. He left the wagon in its bay, stretched out his legs and neck, and followed her lead.

He entered the room and set the parcel down by the door. Judging by the sounds, Skyshine was in the shower; she had already laid out a gown for dinner. It was a remarkable garment of shimmering gossamer, elegant yet understated, like its owner. He could hardly wait to see her in it. He pulled out his dinner jacket and cuffs, then opened up a book and waited for her to finish.

The water cut off shortly thereafter, and Skyshine left the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her mane and a robe over her shoulders. Worker stood, closing the book, and strode towards the bath, pausing as he passed to peck her on the cheek. Grinning, he hopped into the shower for a scrub.

The restaurant’s decor was rich and vibrant, and the meal was superb. Worker had spoken with the concierge and was recommended to a number of restaurants, selecting one that overlooked Canterlot Park. A little splurging didn’t hurt, especially since they planned to return home the next day. But first, Worker had a surprise.

Across the dining hall, a string quartet tuned their instruments and scattered couples began to rise from their seats. The floor slowly began to fill, and Skyshine gestured towards it in invitation. “Would you want to?”

“You know I’m not one for dancing, dearest,” Worker replied, “but if you’d like to take a walk in the park, I’d be honored to accompany you.”

She smiled and nodded, and the two of them left the restaurant side by side. Worker glanced at the sky as they walked, calculating in silence the time to sunset and moonrise. He nodded towards a hill, and the pair climbed to its peak to get a better view.

To their surprise, they were not alone. A small crowd had gathered to watch the princesses work. An excited filly pointed at a balcony on the palace and shouted, “There they are!”

Sure enough, Princess Celestia’s coat shimmered in the sunlight, and next to her stood the dark silhouette of her sister, Princess Luna. The elder sister turned to the west and lowered her head, and the sun quickly followed suit. As its light faded, the younger of the pair reared up on her hind legs, and the moon began to rise on the opposite horizon.

Scattered applause could be heard throughout the park as families and couples stood to leave. Skyshine and Worker sat motionless, watching the moon continue its ascent. Soon, they were alone. The locals saw this show every night, but to Worker and Skyshine, it was a unique experience. When the lower arc of the moon cleared the horizon, Worker leaned close, and nuzzled his beloved. “Skyshine?”


He smiled in the darkness, concentrated, and brought out a small velvet box from within his mane. It hovered between them, and he lowered his head as the lid opened. Skyshine gasped.

“Will you make me the happiest stallion in all of Equestria?”